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Keep Flu Season at Bay with a Little Help from Standards

New York, Sep 23, 2013

Every fall, as the leaves change and children head back to school, the risk of contracting influenza grows greater. And while most people who get the flu will suffer primarily from aches, sneezing, coughing, and other unpleasant symptoms, some individuals will be more seriously affected, resulting in hospitalization and even death. Thankfully, there are ways to effectively reduce your risk of contracting the flu and to diminish the chances that you will spread it to others if already infected. Standards are here to support these courses of action, helping to make the fall safer and more enjoyable.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a series of preventive steps to reduce your risk of contracting the flu, as well as methods to prevent the further spread of the flu virus and to effectively treat a flu infection.

First and foremost, the CDC encourages everyone older than six months to receive a flu shot, with the exception of individuals who have a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, severe allergic reactions to an influenza vaccine, severe allergic reactions to eggs, or people who are currently moderately or severely ill. The following International Standards provide guidance on the type of single-use hypodermic needles commonly used to administer the flu vaccine, among other uses:

These standards were developed by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 84, Devices for administration of medicinal products and intravascular catheters, Subcommittee (SC) 1, Syringes, needles, and intravascular catheters for single use. The U.S.’s Harold Yaeger, senior advisor for devices and diagnostics at Eli Lilly and Company, serves as the chair of ISO TC 84 and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) organizational member and accredited standards developer, administers the TC’s ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

In addition to flu vaccinations, the CDC recommends a number of health habits that can help to reduce the chances of flu transmission. These habits include covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; refraining from touching your mouth, nose, or eyes; avoiding close contact with people who are ill; and frequently washing your hands with soap and water. IAPMO IGC 127-2013a, Combined Hand Washing Systems, provides important information regarding combined hand-washing systems including electronically triggered faucets, soap dispensers, and air-dryers. The standard, which was developed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), an ANSI member and audited designator, specifies requirements for physical characteristics, performance testing, and other subjects related to the functioning of these sorts of systems, which are increasingly common in public bathrooms located in restaurants, bars, and other popular businesses.

Separately, a standard developed by ANSI member and audited designator ASTM International provides useful guidance for determining the comparative effectiveness of different soaps and handwashes. ASTM E1838-10, Standard Test Method for Determining the Virus-Eliminating Effectiveness of Hygienic Handwash and Handrub Agents Using the Fingerpads of Adults, is specifically intended for handwashes and handrub agents that are either microbicidal or non-microbicidal in formulation. The standard is not intended to be used in connection with surgical or preoperative hand scrubs or skin preps.

For individuals who have already been infected with the flu, the CDC encourages the use of antiviral drugs if prescribed by a doctor. Antiviral drugs can reduce unpleasant symptoms and quick recovery from the flu by up to two days, while also reducing the risk of pneumonia and other serious complications associated with influenza.

For more information about the flu and the methods for preventing or mitigating its effects, visit the CDC’s website.

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